Frustrated and furious at myself for failing to keep up my personal (read unpaid) writing, I have decided to try to kick start the muse with some of the entries from a handy little book called ‘The Daily Writer’ by Fred White. This first attempt was inspired – if it deserves that word – by an assignment to describe in detail being in a scary place. And for me, there is nothing more frightening than a wholly familiar setting under sinister circumstances.
So, here goes nothing….
So, here goes nothing….
Clack! My eyes snap open like a discarded Tiny Tears doll disturbed during a rummage through the attic. And like a forgotten plaything, I see nothing. Pure pitch black as I stare into the night.
I can hear the soft, loose-lipped precursors of snores from Nick as he sinks deeper into sleep next to me, and the clicks and creaks of the flat as it settles into the small hours. A whooshing in the pipes signals the flushing of a toilet in a distant apartment.
Another sound sets my nerves tingling like fire. A footstep and a low cough - far too close for comfort - outside the balcony door. I want to react but my body refuses. I’m frozen, unable even to swivel my eyes towards the door, or raise a hand to shake the sleeping, gently grunting body next me. I try to speak. Nothing.
It feels like I’m been pinned to the bed by a large, black dog sitting on my chest, robbing me of speech, movement and the ability to react. My brain goes into overdrive, splitting into two separate streams of consciousness. The rational thread knows this is sleep paralysis, the state that gave birth to countless accounts throughout history of night-time visitations by ghosts, devilish imps, aliens and other forms of incubus. The other, primal stream just wants to thrash out and scream like a cornered beast – but can’t.
I struggle to hold on to logic, to beat the primitive instinctive self that is battling to take over, and do something about the presence I can sense just a couple of metres away from me, from the man I love and our precious child in the bedroom next door.
Shapes loom out of the darkness as my vision adjusts to the midnight light of the gloom, but the closed balcony doors hide any sight of the intruder. My ragged breath shudders as I try to force my body into movement. To do something. Anything but just lie there helpless.
Panic threatens to cloud everything with the red mist of fear as a click is followed by a sharp whispering swish as the balcony door opens. With what feels like a super-human effort, I take a juggering gasp and squeeze my vocal chords into action to shout or scream to scare off the intruder, or at least alert my sleeping boys.
Instead of the Amazonian battle shriek worthy of Queen Boudicea I was hoping for, an incoherent wordless jumble of moaned consonants tumble through my lips. I sound like John Hurt in ‘The Elephant Man’. There are no words, but it’s enough to rouse the sleeping beauty beside me. He reaches out to me, but by the time his hand reaches out to me, blind panic has taken a hold of me and the touch I feel comes to me as a thrust from our imagined intruder. Survival instinct kicks in and I hit out, landing an impressive thwack smack in the middle of Nick’s chest.
He chokes in surprise and pain, and the light clicks on. Miraculously, my body starts listening to the commands I’m sending it and the panic mist clears. I swivel round to face the balcony door, fully expecting to see a slavering demonic presence dripping saliva and brimstone, but all I see is the sad little pile of my clothes where I dropped them in a fit of ‘can’t-be-arsed’ before heading for bed.
Nick is nursing his chest, looking at me in stunned disbelief. Outside, a dog barks and someone slams a car door. Normality returns, but it takes til morning for my heart to return to its rightful place from the base of my throat where it has been beating like a trapped sparrow that’s flown into the bedroom.
My incubus has fled, but my memory endures – as does the spreading bruise on Nick’s chest.